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|Win-Win at Bob's Market in Santa Monica|
By Ann K. Williams
November 16, 2011 – It's a familiar sight in Sunset Park. Bob's Market manager Richard Johnson puts a quarter in the kiddie ride outside the store and tells the lucky tot there's a job waiting for her at the popular store when she grows up.
It's no idle promise – as the years have gone by, a host of neighborhood youths have found work at Bob's, many steered there through the store's partnership with Santa Monica High School's Region Occupational Program (ROP).
ROP “takes a lot of pressure off of us,” Johnson told The Lookout. The program “sends us quality people,” he said, young people who've already learned professional standards in their vocational classes at SAMOHI.
As for the students, Johnson said they've been given an opportunity to “grow, be promoted and prosper.
“They can even make a career out of it,” he said.
Some of the latest crop of young Bob's employees who've been through ROP are still in high school, while some have gone on to community college. Their jobs help support their families and their own education.
“My part-time job helps my family meet their monthly expenses, along with taking care of my own personal expenses,” said Brian Ortiz, a Santa Monica College student who graduated from SAMOHI in 2008.
Said SAMOHI senior Dionisio Flores, “I can actually rely on myself instead of having to rely on my parents for money,”
But it's not just about the money.
“Bob's community is so tight-knit,” said Dillon Benavides, a junior at SAMOHI. “It's a fun, happy workplace.”
Benavides plans to major in psychology when he goes to college, and says he's learned valuable interpersonal skills working at Bob's.
“Working here has made me more of a people person,” he said. “I see how different people are...hear their different stories.”
Working with the public, and with their fellow employees, seems to be the best part of working at Bob's.
“I've made a lot of good friends,” said James McFadden, a SMC student who graduated from SAMOHI in 2010. “Bob's has a lot of regular customers. I like to chat them up.”
“I love the people I work with,” said Meredith Gutierrez, a SMC student who graduated from SAMOHI last year. “They're amazing.”
Ada Prasad, another SMC student who graduated from SAMOHI last year, has learned valuable life lessons working at Bob's.
“I learned that patience is a virtue,” said Prasad. “You can't get everything your way.”
An aspiring psychologist, Prasad also learned lessons in human nature by watching the behavior of customers as the recent plastic bag ban got underway.
“Some people had a huge tantrum, others supported it full-on,” she said.
These students got their jobs through Anita Kemp's Food Service Management Course at SAMOHI.
The course teaches them about the industry's professional standards, safety regulations, teamwork, customer service and cash handling, as well as how to apply for a job and how to present oneself in the workplace.
It's part of ROP's collaboration with local school districts to prepare young adults for the labor market in Los Angeles County.
“ROP helped me develop my work ethic and keep my grades up,” said Luis Chavez, a West L.A. College student who graduated from SAMOHI in 2005.
Added Prasad, “ROP helped me educate myself about how to obtain a job and keep it.”
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